While developing countries are facing the challenges of rapid urbanisation, Europe and the United States are trying to find solutions to overcome the crisis of the city built on heavy industry. Many places, including Poland, have witnessed a rebirth of urban culture as more and more people take on responsibility and monitor the performance of those in power, feeling the need to consciously influence the running and development of their cities.
A major role in these processes is played by digital technologies and in particular those related to data processing. Proponents of smart cities promise greater management efficiency and better use of resources, while open data is designed not only to ensure a greater transparency of administrative action, but also to become the fuel for innovation based on data processing. Finally, glimpses of re-industrialisation of cities, as well as the growing popularity of the Internet of Things and the grassroots methods of producing goods have led some to make prophecies of the next industrial revolution.
Consequently, a question emerges as to what role in these processes is to be assumed by city residents? While delivering the Urban Data Stories project as part of Medialab Katowice, we showed the participants how to use data to achieve the objectives relevant to different groups of residents. By demonstrating ways of acquiring and building their own data sets, we tried to teach them how to construct clear and convincing narratives about the problems of the city. We did so in the belief that the data and data-processing competencies should not lie only in the hands of large technology companies.
Our Rediscovering the City conference will serve to present different ways to study, describe, explore, discover and reclaim the city. We will interest ourselves primarily in grassroots and community oriented solutions based on data processing technologies, in an attempt to answer the question of whether they may empower the local communities to have a real impact on the design and development directions of our cities in the near future. Particular attention will be given to projects in Central Europe in order to observe the local application context of certain universal and globally-shared technologies.
Medialab Katowice is an experimental project combining creative, research and education activities. Participants of interdisciplinary projects placing themselves at the intersection of art, design and technology use digital media to research the city and create new narratives for Katowice. Medialab is a forum for the exchange of ideas and knowledge, meeting inspiring artists and designers, as well as a collaboration platform for artists and institutions from different countries: universities, NGOs and creative-sector companies. The project involves workshops, interventions in public space, exhibitions, lectures and discussions. There are also several workgroups focused on areas of city data visualisation, spatial analysis (MapLab), open data and the Arduino platform.